While Handel’s Messiah rightly holds its place as this country’s classical musical soundtrack for the holiday season (quibble if you will about its Easter message; there’s nothing wrong
with talking about Easter at Christmas – just ask Bach!), it’s J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio that rings through concert halls throughout Europe at this time of the year.
The oratorio is in six parts, each part being intended for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period. The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation to the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year’s Day) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany) the adoration of the Magi.